Remember that amazing game Lemmings? In my opinion one of the best games ever created and while it got frustrating at times, it was highly addictive for i's simple nature. You could easily just jump on for a game or two and hours later you'd be on the same level trying to guide your lemmings through the pixel jungle. Since then I haven't played any game of its sort, that's why when I read about Swarm, on the XBLA and PSN, I couldn't wait to get my hands on it.
Swarm is an Xbox Live Arcade title that requires gamers to guide a swarm - hence the name - of fifty blue blobs known as swarmites through a level plagued with high drops, explosive boxes, giant spinning saws, fire, gas and other wacky ways to die. Guiding the swarmites through the Indiana Jones-eque levels isn't the only thing you need to do as that would be far too easy. In order to progress, and in addition to finishing the level with at least one swarmite, you'll be required to collect as many points as possible. You can pick up these points through jewels and racking up jewels quickly builds up a multiplier which in turn, builds up your high score. This is where I found the game very frustrating.
While Swarm is really addictive, it's also very frustrating at times and this can be apparent as early as the third level. The reason you collect points and try to build up your multiplier through the level is not because it’s in our human nature to love things that shine on screen but because in order to progress you need to surpass a points threshold, and this is where the irritation can kick in. In my opinion the points threshold is extremely hard and demands far too much from the gamer in order to progress. Each level can take a zillion attempts in order to progress and let’s be honest; it isn't fun playing the same level over and over and over again, especially when you don't feel like you're making any progress.
It's all about patience and mastering the various different techniques in the swarmite’s arsenal. Your swarmites can huddle together, spread apart, stack on top of each other, carry items as well as die gracefully. Mastering these techniques is a must if you want to make it past the third level. Why would dying gracefully be helpful I hear you ask? Well within the game you can collect death medals where you are awarded for dying in a certain way, be it electrocuted, trapped or burned to death. Master these techniques, and you'll quickly build up your multiplier and progress through the game. It's also crucial that when you get the chance to run over a swarm egg you do as this will replace any swarmites you may have lost in your journey through the level. Without these the game would almost certainly be impossible to complete.
Unfortunately once you've completed the single player there isn't anything else on offer. This is a great shame as I think it would be really good fun to try and team up with a friend to reach certain areas of a level. Don't fear though as because the game is based on high scoring points, you can always go back and try to beat any of your friends scores.
The artistic way the game is presented is very nice and my TV was and still is constantly splashed with blue dots as the swarmites get squashed and trapped. Some levels can appear very dark and sometimes too dark but that all adds to the challenge of the level.
Overall Swarm is a game that is highly addictive yet contains a certain frustrating aspect mainly in relation to the demand for a high score in order to progress. Fans of Lemmings should definitely pick up this game as well as gamers looking for that extra brain teasing challenge. The 1200 MS Points price tag shouldn’t put you off though, and if it does, download the trial and give it a bash.
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